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Batman: Arkham City

By breadbitten23-10-2013
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
Bobfish (editor)

The Defence

WB Games
Action, Adventure
Release Date:
US 22-11-2011
EU 25-11-2011

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
AMD Radeon HD 6850
4 GB
17.5 GB
9.0c, 11

The Case

In 2009 little-known developer Rocksteady pulled off the unthinkable and delivered the expectation-shattering Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game that simultaneously finally did the character in question justice and also raised the bar for any future comic book games. Two years later, Rocksteady attempted to follow up Arkham Asylum with Batman: Arkham City. But did they manage to once again capture lightning in a bottle?

The Trial

I am perched atop a narrow beam, my eyes focussed on an obviously criminal sounding individual threatening a hapless innocent with torture. The inner voyeur in me wants to wait and see if things escalate any further, but after the first sharp shriek I whoosh down, teeth visibly gritted, and land crashing into the undesirable. A quick squeeze on the left-trigger, a tap on the Y button and the scumbag is seeing stars. I have saved a life. I have punished a criminal. I am Batman.

22 years onwards and the shadow of 'Batdance' still lingers.

22 years onwards and the shadow of 'Batdance' still lingers.

In an absolutely shocking turn of events Rocksteady Games have somehow managed to outdo Arkham Asylum, bringing the player even closer to feeling like The Caped Crusader himself. The most noticeable way they accomplish this near-impossible feat is by giving players an expanded world, fun traversal mechanics and lots of stuff to do along the way. The kind of stuff that one expects Batman to be doing.

The story is set right after the events that transpired in Arkham Asylum, with The Joker’s health in a critical condition from his Titan overdose in the last game. Mayor Sharp’s plans of turning a large part of Gotham’s slums into a massive penitentiary and then handing over the keys to the menacing Dr. Hugo Strange are coming to fruition. Strange has a bigger plan for Arkham City however and, worst of all, has somehow come to know of Batman’s true identity. After a series of events, which I won’t spoil, as Batman the player is put smack-dab into the thick of matters. From there you must navigate the hostile territory (during winter no less) to try and figure out what exactly Strange’s plans are and maybe save a few lives and thwart some “other” insidious individuals’ designs in the process.



As Batman, the first thing you’ll notice about Arkham City is the scope; while “open world” might be a bit of a stretch, Arkham City has come a long way from the Metroidvania-style Arkham Island of the last game. It’s a sizeable portion of Gotham City after all, the city’s Northern part to be exact, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in incredible attention to detail. The streets are littered with destroyed cars, overused trash cans and other debris. Dilapidated buildings adorned with questionable neon signs flickering on and off, heavily armed security choppers patrolling the air and casting floodlights over any suspicious activity…it’s really a sight to behold.

The detail isn’t restricted to the world either; snowflakes landing on Batman’s cape leave visible stains while his suit grows progressively more tattered and destroyed as you delve further into the main narrative (a carryover from Arkham Asylum). The world is also littered with all these little references and hints for avid fans of Batman, and by extension the DC Universe, to pick up and speculate over the franchise’s future. All of this is made possible through Rocksteady’s absolute mastery over the ageing Unreal Engine 3, and given the usually hardware friendly nature of the engine, the game runs relatively smoothly while still looking amazing on generously equipped systems. But that’s not to say that systems with more advanced hardware are going to be left un-catered to, not at all. Arkham City comes fully equipped with DirectX 11 features such as enhanced tesselation and of course Nvidia’s PhysX, rendering the game’s physics with an increased level of realism.

Must've spotted a dangling ball of yarn.

Must've spotted a dangling ball of yarn.

Arkham City retains everything from Arkham Asylum in terms of gameplay; at its core it’s still the same mix of exploration, detective work and combat that made the first game feel so tight. Except that everything has been expanded exponentially this time around, with more gadgets, more combat moves and more ways to stalk, evade and pounce on your prey. It’s quite possible that the game may overwhelm you with its breadth of options at times. Traversal mechanics have also been expanded to accommodate the game’s bigger world; while Batman’s gliding capabilities were put to limited use in Arkham Asylum, it plays a much bigger role this time around. Being his chief method of traversal in and around the super-prison. Combined with the grapnel-boost upgrade that can be unlocked after completing select side-objectives, you’ll soon be gliding up in the air, barreling down to the ground with increasing velocity and grapnel-boosting your way up to gain a higher altitude to cover a larger area. Then repeating the same process just for fun. It’s an absolute rush.

Gadgets, too, have an expanded role in Arkham City, with a large part of Batman’s arsenal from the last game making a comeback in addition to a few new ones. A personal favorite of mine is the Disruptor, a neat little tool that disables enemy weaponry. Often times I’d just spot a couple of patrolling gunmen, use the Disruptor from a distance, drop down and watch them fumble with their guns before making short work of them. The excellent combat from Arkham Asylum makes a welcome return, only now you can throw your arsenal of gadgets into the mix as well with the new “quickfire” feature. Feel like the number of thugs is too overwhelming? Temporarily disable one with a freezebomb or quickly spray a dash of explosive gel on the ground to subdue a whole bunch of them. While bigger gadgets and expanded move sets aren’t particularly new to sequels, what is absolutely astonishing is how seamless it feels to use your new tools alongside your familiar gadgets from the last game, whether during combat or the game’s “predator” moments.

The art style harkens back to the animated series and Brian Bolland's work on 'The Killing Joke'.

The art style harkens back to the animated series and Brian Bolland's work on 'The Killing Joke'.

I don’t know about you but a large part of my time in Arkham Asylum was spent in the game’s Detective Mode. An all-too-useful feature that equated to trading in seeing the game’s immaculately detailed world for more information on your foes or the many clues and Riddler trophies that litter the game world. Inexplicably Rocksteady have also managed to not let Detective Mode be the predominant way you view the world while not nerfing its usefulness. Batman is a detective first and foremost, the world’s greatest to be exact, and it’s only fair that his skills not be limited for any reason whatsoever. Speaking of detective work, Arkham City puts an increased emphasis on it, letting Batman scan bullet trajectory, blood trails, track radio frequencies, phone calls and even atmospheric temperature at specific points in the game. Arkham City also lets you inhabit the leather suit of Catwoman during certain sections. She controls much like The Dark Knight in combat, however her choice method of traversal varies quite a lot; it’s a combination of using her whip (as a replacement for Bats’ grapnel gun) and relying more on her claws to scale structures.

I’ve been too positive in this review so far, so it’s time I switched gears a bit. As amazing as Arkham City is, as a game there’s just something about it that didn’t quite grab me for an extended period the first time I actually sat down to play it, compared to how engaged I was with Arkham Asylum from the get-go. The game can also feel a bit unfocused at times. Granted, that may just be a natural result of the game’s more “open world” structure, but it’s quite jarring when Batman has escaped from a fatal explosion only to immediately be distracted by a ringing pay phone. Then he goes off chasing a criminal who feels relatively low-priority in comparison.



That loss of focus is also somewhat evident in the game’s main narrative. Arkham Asylum didn’t have the greatest of stories to tell but the events and resulting consequences had an organic feel to them. However in Arkham City the story often feels padded to wedge in the expanded roster of Batman’s foes, with one specific sequence (dealing with a certain deathless villain) feeling especially out of context. Having said that, it’s quite possible that the game’s shocking conclusion will leave you with your jaw on the floor, and a lasting chill running down your spine.

The Verdict

Besides being an amazing game, Batman: Arkham City is full to the hilt with content and will likely keep you engaged for a good long while, especially if you’re obsessive compulsive about collectibles and challenge modes. Its relatively minor flaws may distract you from the overall experience but you’ll be having too much fun to really pay them much mind.

Case Review

  • Superbly Realized World: Arkham City is an incredibly well thought out and immersive gamespace.
  • Bang for Your Buck: The main story is of a generous length while the side quests, collectibles and challenge mode will keep you busy for a really long time.
  • Batman – The RPG: This is the closest any game has ever come to letting a player feel like the Dark Knight.
  • Transitional Phase: The game is seamless in handling combat, exploration and traversal and this is a true achievement in gameplay engineering.
  • First Impressions: Didn’t quite grab my attention as Arkham Asylum did from the get-go.
  • A Tear In The Cape: Some jarring storytelling and narrative inconsistencies irk, more so if you are a Batman fan.
Score: 5/5
Storytelling foibles aside, Arkham City is an excellent action game and a shining example how to make a sequel.
Comments (4)
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Posts: 1548

I liked AA because it seemed to me more focused and now AO is looking to be too open and big.

Posts: 124

@XiDiO Like I said, the game didn't grab me quite as much as Arkham Asylum did right off the bat, but after spending a few hours the game outdoes its predecessor in almost every way.

Posts: 3290

The whole series is pretty heavily overrated really

Posts: 341

Its not amazing, it has flaws, such as being monotonous.
Asylum was the better game because it had more variation.

But theyre both good games.